This guide highlights resources about prisons, the people who occupy them, legal and social services for inmates and their families, issues related to incarceration and reentry, and human rights behind bars. The focus is on selected web resources and online publications.
National commissions have been created to investigate conditions and facilitate legislation aimed at reforming the prison system. And many states and local governments have established agencies to oversee their correctional facilities, and issue reports about their operations. More information on the national level can be found under Conditions of Confinement.
- ABA Commission on Effective Criminal Sanctions
- Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons
- National Commission on Correctional Health Care
- National Prison Rape Elimination Commission
Selected State Commissions
The Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons conducted a national examination of the violence, sexual abuse, degradation, and other abuses occurring in prisons and jails across the country. Four public hearings were held over the course of a year. In 2006, they issued their final report, Confronting Confinement, with recommendations for improving and reforming the prison system, which included standardized reporting of violence and abuse, reinvestment in violence prevention programs, and expanding Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement to cover correctional facilities. The Commission was staffed and funded by the Vera Institute of Justice.
In addition to the work of the Commission, the following organizations have been monitoring and studying prison conditions in the United States, and around the world:
The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA), 42 USC § 15601, et seq., gave rise to the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. The Commission website makes accessible testimony taken at ongoing hearings along with updates about their work. The following sites provide resources on PREA and its implementation:
National Institute of Corrections
- Annual Report to Congress: National Institute of Corrections: Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Public Law 108-79 (2004)
- PREA's Implementation & Agency Contacts
Bureau of Justice Statistics
- Data Collections for the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (2004)
- Sexual Violence Reported by Correctional Authorities, 2004 (2005)
- Sexual Violence Reported by Correctional Authorities, 2005 (2006)
Prison societies and academic institutions devote resources to prison education through distribution of books and supporting course materials.
Here are several excellent publications that provide information on legal research, inmate rights, pro se litigation, and resources for prisoners and ex-offenders.
- Arrested? What Happens to Your Benefits If You Go to Jail or Prison? (Bazelon Center)
- Jailhouse Lawyer's Handbook and Women's Appendix (Center for Constitutional Rights & National Lawyers Guild)
- Jailhouse Lawyer's Manual (Columbia Human Rights Law Review)
- Protecting Your Health and Safety: Prisoner's Rights (Southern Poverty Law Center)
The federal government posts a list of its facilities, and a locator to find particular inmates. Most states offer similar resources for their prisons and some jails. In addition to these directories, an individual state or county's facilities can be found by searching the local government's website or one of the national lists below for the appropriate department of corrections.
- Federal Prison Facilities (Federal Bureau of Prisons)
- Inmate Locator (Federal Bureau of Prisons)
- Inmate Locators (Corrections.com)
- National Prison Directory (PrisonerLife.com)
Many law schools have created clinics to provide representation for incarcerated persons who need assistance in post-conviction matters and prison-related cases.
These are directories and sites that provide information about legal services for prisoners and information on self-representation.
- Human Rights in Prisons and Jails (Southern Center for Human Rights)
- Prison Dharma Network Resource Guides Legal Aid Services
- Prisoners' Legal Resource Addresses (Death Row Speaks)
- Prisoners' Rights (Pro Bono Net)
- Prisoners' Rights Project (The Legal Aid Society)
The resources from national library organizations and others provide information on the issues related to serving this special population.
- Directory of State Prison Librarians (Maryland Correctional Education Libraries)
- Law Libraries Serving Prisoners (AALL)
- Library Service to Prisoners Forum (ALA)
- Prison Librarianship Clearinghouse
- Services to Incarcerated People and Ex-Offenders (ALA)
The appropriate treatment of inmates with mental health issues has been the subject of much study and debate. This is a small selection of recently published materials and resources.
- Criminal Justice/Mental Health Consensus Project (Council of State Governments 2002)
- How to Help--When a Person With Mental Illness Is Arrested (NAMI 2004)
- Ill-Equipped: US Prisons and Offenders With Mental Illness (HRW 2003)
- Mental Health and Treatment of Inmates and Probationers (US Dept of Justice 1999)
- Mental Health in the House of Corrections (Correctional Association of New York 2004)
Stories about prison conditions and developments in the law affecting prisoners' rights can be found in these specialized sources. Notably, there are some standout publications, such as the monthly magazine Prison Legal News, which provides excellent comprehensive coverage and analysis of prison issues. Their website includes a rich collection of resources and an extensive list of research links.
Corrections Community Blog (National Institute of Corrections)
Corrections News & Features (Officer.com)
Corrections Today (American Correctional Association
Jail and Prisoner Law Bulletin (AELE Law Enforcement Legal Center
Prisons (Yahoo News) (NCSC)
Annual Review of Criminal Procedure [Prisoners' Rights] (Georgetown University Law Center)
Columbia Human Rights Law Review (Columbia University School of Law)
New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement (New England School of Law)
Correct Care (National Commission on Correctional Health Care)
Journal of Correctional Health Care (National Commission on Correctional Health Care)
Prison Journal (Pennsylvania Prison Society)
There is a broad spectrum of private, academic and governmental organizations concerned with the state of US prisons and the operation of the prison system. Many of them publish reports and studies on issues vital to prisoners' rights and prison reform.
- ACLU National Prison Project
- AELE Law Enforcement Legal Center
- American Correctional Association
- American Jail Association
- Amnesty International
- Bazelon Center for Mental Health Lab
- Bureau of Justice Statistics (U.S. Dept. of Justice)
- Center for Constitutional Rights
- Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants
- Commission on Human Rights (UN)
- Correctional Association of New York
- Death Penalty Information Center
- Death Row Speaks
- Families Against Mandatory Minimums
- Federal Bureau of Prisons
- Federal Cure
- Human Rights Watch
- International Centre for Prison Studies (King's College, University of London)
- Justice Policy Institute
- Legal Action Center
- NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
- National Commission on Correctional Health Care
- National Institute of Corrections
- National Institute of Justice
- National Lawyers Guild
- Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (U.S. Dept. of Justice)
- Prison Activist Resource Center
- Prison Policy Initiative
- Sentencing Project
- Southern Center for Human Rights
- United States Department of Justice
- Urban Institute
- Vera Institute of Justice
- Western Prison Project (ATA)
Here are some general sites concerning parole administration, more information can be found in the Reentry section.
- American Probation and Parole Association
- Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision
- Parole Violations Revisited (National Institute of Corrections 2004)
Health issues for people behind bars are a serious concern and have an impact on society at large. Here are a few national resources on this topic.
- Academy of Correctional Health Professionals
- National Commission on Correctional Health
- Society of Correctional Physicians
Many private, academic and governmental groups engage in research on prison and sentencing reform. They often conduct original research on the conditions of confinement or develop strategies to respond to current problems, such as overcrowding.
- Federal Prison Policy Project
- Impact of Sentencing Reforms on Prison Populations (Vera Institute of Justice)
- Prison Expansion & Sentencing Reform (Open Society Institute)
- Prison Policy Initiative
- Sentencing and Corrections Program (Vera Institute of Justice)
- State Sentencing and Corrections Programs (Vera Institute of Justice)
- Treatment or Incarceration (Justice Policy Institute 2004)
Much of the literature and resources on prisoners' rights have already been noted under other categories.
- Prison Litigation Reform Act (The Legal Aid Society, Prisoners' Rights Project 2004)
- Prisoner's Rights ((Wex Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School)
- Prisoners' Rights Fact Sheets (ACLU National Prison Project)
These sources concentrate on the unique concerns of prisons and correctional facilities related to placement, administration, and economics.
- Classification of High Risk Prisoners (National Institute of Corrections 2004)
- Costs of Incarceration and Supervision (Third Branch 2004)
- Meaning of Life: Long Prison Sentences in Context (Sentencing Project 2004)
- New Landscape of Imprisonment (Urban Institute 2004)
- Objective Prison Classification System (National Institute of Justice 2004)
- State Prison Expenditures 2001 (Bureau of Justice Statistics 2004)
More than 600,000 former ex-offenders are in the process of reentering society. And governmental and private entities are beginning to provide much needed services to ease the transition and promote reintegration.
- Advocacy Toolkits to Combat Legal Barriers Facing Individuals With Criminal Records (Legal Action Center)
- After Prison Initiative (Open Society Institute)
- Collateral Consequences of Criminal Charges (NY)
- Family Justice
- Legal Action Center
- Life After Exoneration Program
- Prisoner Reentry (National Criminal Justice Reference Service)
- Prisoner Reentry (National District Attorneys Association)
- Prisoner Reentry (National Governors Association)
- Prisoner Reentry Institute (John Jay College of Criminal Justice)
- Project Greenlight (Vera Institute of Justice)
- Reentry Net
- Reentry Policy Council
- Reentry Resource Map (National Criminal Justice Reference Service
- Reentry Trends in the United States (Bureau of Justice Statistics 2002)
- Relief From the Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Conviction: A State-by-State Resource Guide (Sentencing Project)
- Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (US Dept of Justice)
National and state standards exist for the administration and operation of prison and jail facilities.
Jail Standards and Inspections (National Institute of Corrections)
Standards & Accreditation (American Correctional Association)
Selected State Standards
Criminal justice agencies, academic and some private organizations collect statistical information on prison populations, services and special issues.
Corrections Statistics (US Bureau of Justice Statistics)
Juveniles in Corrections (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention)
State Corrections Statistics (National Institute of Corrections)
Many organizations exist that provide a variety of basic services to inmates and their families.
Nation Prisoner Resource List (Prison Book Program)
Prison Resource Directory (Prisonet)
Prisoner Support Directory (Prison Activist Resource Center)
Prisoner Support Directory (Western Prison Project)
Serving Families of Adult Offenders: Directory of Programs (National Institute of Corrections 2002)
The right to vote for persons behind bars has become the focus of studies, policy discussions and litigation nationwide.
Barred for Life: Voting Rights Restoration in Permanent Disenfranchisement States (Sentencing Project 2005)
Felon Disenfranchisement (Prison Policy Initiative)
Felon Disenfranchisement (NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund)
Felon Voting (Dr. Christopher Uggen, University of Minnesota)
Legislative Changes on Felony Disenfranchisement 1996-2003 (Sentencing Project 2003)
Several organizations have devoted significant resources to the special issues facing women behind bars.
Resource List for Women in Prison (Chicago Books to Women in Prison)
Women in Prison (ACLU National Prison Project)
Here are some extensive bibliographies, pathfinders, and collections of resources on prison related topics.